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Science and art merged yesterday in a flurry of photography, sculpture and dance at the physics department's third annual Art Show. 

"This was the best Art Show we've had so far," said Sara Tortora, physics department manager. More people attended the event this year because it was held in the "bigger, brighter space" of the Barus and Holley lobby, instead of in the faculty lounge on the building's seventh floor, Tortora said.

The lobby was abuzz with chatter as undergraduates, grad students, faculty members and guests admired the assorted art while snacking on hors d'oeuvres. 

"We have a lot of students who are artists but also love physics. I wanted to make sure they felt recognized," said Jim Valles, physics department chair, who came up with the idea for the event three years ago. "The response has been surprising - especially the number of people doing things, not just in the physics department," Valles added.

Many of the entries were inspired by physics or came from physics students and professors, though this was not a requirement for submissions. "Just physics would be too restrictive," Valles said.

One of the entries that drew the most attention was a sculpture by visual arts concentrator Fahmina Ahmed '13 called "Sqrt r^2 - x^2 - y^2." The sculpture comprised two square hanging wooden planes suspended by ropes. The ropes were strategically dyed black so when viewers stepped back, they saw a sphere. "It is a sculpture based on the equation of a sphere. ... I wrote a code to figure out where to paint each string to 'draw' a sphere in space," Ahmed wrote in a description of her piece.

Another entry that garnered attention was a sculpture by Gerald Diebold, professor of chemistry, irreverently entitled "Chemical Bird Thing." The sculpture comprised red neon lights inside a clear plastic tube shaped like an abstract bird. 

"I think it's quite spectacular. We've never had anything like it," said Jane Martin, a staff member of the physics department who has been in charge of the event for the past three years, of Diebold's piece.

A couple of the entries took a playful view of the serious subject matter of physics. Savvas Koushiappas, assistant professor of physics, submitted a sequence of three photographs in which a student studies Feynman diagrams, falls asleep with her head in the book and wakes up with the diagrams imprinted on her face in ink. Koushiappas said he took the pictures when he was a student. "It was just fun to do. It's more funny if you understand what Feynman diagrams are," he said. Meanwhile, Deelan Oller, a physics graduate student, submitted photographs of famous physicists wearing brightly colored and patterned face paint. "I was going to do one last year with physicists' heads on bikini bodies," Oller said, smiling.

After the attendees had 45 minutes to amble around and admire the art, the dance troupe Fusion took the floor to perform. Nathan Weinberger '13, a physics concentrator, danced in both pieces. In the first piece, he elegantly twisted and turned with Nicole Parma '14 to the sway of a soft, relaxing soundtrack. In the second piece, he and Parma joined four additional dancers in a faster, more upbeat medley.

"Both physics and dance involve a certain creativity," Weinberger said of his divergent passions.

"This event is great because we can see the art side of fellow physicists. Science is not just about using logic. You also have to use the right side of your brain and creativity," said Jim Liu GS, who is studying physics.

"It's really cool that physics professors and students have this artistic side to them," said Erica Kahn '14.

On the way out, attendees were encouraged to take a colorful wooden doorstop painted by Todd French, a janitor who cleans the building. Students selected from triangular wooden doorstops painted with rainbows, stripes, dots, peace signs and Boston Celtics logos. 

"Life is like a box of doorstops. You never know what you're gonna get," French wrote in a sign on his "Doorstop Art 2012" exhibit.


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